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Svitolina beats Kerber, will face Wozniacki in Dubai final

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Top-seeded Angelique Kerber struggled with a knee injury during a 6-3, 7-6 (3) loss to seventh seed Elina Svitolina in the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday.

Kerber would have reclaimed No. 1 ranking if she won the Dubai title, but that seemed of secondary importance after her loss.

“I’m not thinking about this,” Kerber said. “For me it’s really important to be healthy.”

Kerber was not sure what caused the injury.

“I don’t know what’s with my knee now, but I feel pain a little bit,” the German player said. “At the end, I tried my best. This is how I am.”

Svitolina beat Kerber for the third straight match and advances to play 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who earlier reached her second consecutive final of the season with a 6-3, 6-4 semifinal win over Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.

Svitolina’s victory increased her winning streak to 11 matches. The Ukrainian won the Taiwan Open earlier this month for a fifth career title.

Wozniacki, a losing finalist at the Doha tournament last week, is seeking her 26th career title.

“Very happy how I have managed to get through these two weeks, because it’s been very tiring mentally,” she said. “The fact that I have just been staying in there and keep grinding, I’m kind of proud of that.”

The last time she reached back-to-back finals was at the 2014 U.S. Open and Tokyo tournaments, but lost both.

Wozniacki won the Dubai title in 2011 and has reached at least the semifinals in six of the seven years she’s played at the event, compiling a 22-5 record.

“I love playing here,” she said. “To have a finals here again, it just feels good.”

Venus ready for return WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Venus Williams returns to the year-end WTA Finals for the first time since reaching the 2009 final, and the fifth time overall, starting on Sunday in Singapore.

Williams joins top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, second-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

They’re all pretty special,” said Williams, of her career appearances in the year-end competition. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the year-end championships behind a 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Williams is the oldest player in this draw with 27-year-old Wozniacki the next oldest.

Having played since 1995, Williams has seen the women’s game advance, saying: “The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Williams won the WTA Finals title, going 3-0 in the round-robin, and defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final.

She was also was a semifinalist in her first two appearances in the finals, in 1999 and 2000.

Williams reached two Grand Slam finals this season at the Australian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an already pregnant younger sister, Serena, and at Wimbledon, where she fell to Muguruza.

Every player but Garcia has a possibility of playing themselves into the year-end No. 1 ranking depending on their result this week. Williams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her career.

In the round-robin, Williams is situated in the White Group with fellow big-hitters Muguruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time during this season, and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams opens the competition against Pliskova on Sunday. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 winning record over Muguruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more aggressive style players in the group and the other one is more defending,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play better these players.

“I start with Venus tomorrow, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

Goerges ends 6-year title wait with victory at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Julia Goerges ended her six-year wait for another WTA singles title Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Kremlin Cup final.

Goerges cruised to victory against her Russian opponent, who was ranked one place below her at 28th.

The German swept the first five games of the first set before Kasatkina could even get on the board.

Kasatkina put up more resistance at the start of the second, forcing three break points in Goerges’ first service game, but couldn’t convert them and was broken next game.

Goerges is now 3-7 in career singles finals, with her last title in Stuttgart in 2011. Before Saturday’s match, she had lost six straight finals, including three in the space of two months this summer.